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Chuck West was born November 27, 1914 in Des Moines, Iowa and began his career in aviation working as a traffic salesman for United Airlines. With the start of World War II, he enrolled in the military's civilian pilot training program and worked for the Air Transport Command flying planes and supplies to Alaska. He later flew air transport in China. After the war, he returned to Alaska and flew for Wien Airlines, and then started a travel agency and tourism business in Fairbanks. Chuck West pioneered the use of airplanes for expanding tourism in Alaska. What began as sightseeing flights with Wien Airlines became a multi-million dollar tourism business, much credited to West’s ingenuity and refusal to quit. Often called a rebel, Chuck bucked the traditional ideas of tourism for more intimate and in-depth tours. This gave tourists the ability to see Alaska as a whole, and to really experience the wilderness. He owned a multitude of different tourism outlets, from ships, to buses, to hotels. He always pursued new ideas and outlets for business. He was known as “Mr. Alaska” and is one of the founding fathers of tourism in Alaska. Chuck West died in October 2005.
Biographical information from interview transcript and "Chuck West, Alaska's Tourism, Hotel and Cruise Ship Pioneer Dies." By Paula Dobbyn, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, 2005. For more information about Chuck West, see: "Mr. Alaska"- The Chuck West Story, Forty Years of Alaska Tourism 1945-1985. By Charles B. West. Weslee Publishing, Seattle, Washington, 1985.